The Man who Could be King: A Novel by John Ripin Miller ’55. This novel is based on the Newburgh Conspiracy, a plot by the Continental Army to instigate a military coup because of the failure of Congress in Philadelphia to provide wages to the long-suffering troops. The narrator, Josiah, Washington’s young aide-de-camp, narrates the events, looking back as an old man in 1840 to what transpired in 1783, when as a young pacifist Quaker, he found himself in the middle of the last stages of the war. Josiah, a fictional character, but a composite of numerous real aides-de camp, provides a look at the Father of the Country as a human being, capable of being tempted by power and adept at wily maneuvers. In the end, we are not wrong to revere Washington. He found a way to defuse the plot, which could have made him king and supplanted one George with another. John Ripin Miller represented Washington state in the House of Representatives, just one of the many civic responsibilities he undertook during his life. I am grateful to his classmate, Arthur Goldschmidt (who authored the history of the Middle East found in the Nonfiction-International section) for telling me about his friend’s book. John Ripin Miller died in 2017.
Nov 23, 2019
Murder at the Columbarium by Emily Gallo ’67. This is the third novel of Emily’s I have read with Jonestown survivor Jed as the protagonist. Having found a way to go forward as caretaker for this facility for cremains, Jed has also maintained a network of friends and a committed partner, Monica. A character of great empathy, Jed found in the past that rocking crack babies calmed both the babies and himself as he struggled to keep his past from overwhelming him. Now he finds himself in the midst of a murder mystery. After coming upon the body of a young woman wearing a hijab on the grounds of the Columbarium, he is startled to also find with her a healthy baby. Clues lead to a pot farm, international drug traffic, and some harsh Pakistani customs. The plot is well-paced and keeps the reader guessing as the facts unfold. Malcolm, whom I first met in Venice Beach, comes back to play an important role, and Jed’s baby rocking skills come in handy. Though a brutal murder is at the center of the story, the book provides a heartfelt, humanizing look at those often marginalized by society: the trans, the HIV positive, the poor, and even the skinhead.